A brief introduction and an apology: the following came via e-mail after publishing Court Files, Court Records and Getting Them and the delay came about due to the need to deal with work. This is my first guest post. The formatting got lost in translation, so I will apologize for that also. I want to point out that this e-mail underscores just how little data we have on our courts.
I'll start with a disclosure- I work with one of the companies that "competes" with the Odyssey system by providing an alternative that works today and costs the taxpayers nothing. It *does* cost attorneys something, but in total, considerably less that the fees and taxes assessed to pay for the State's system. To give you an idea of the difference in expense, the annual salary costs for JTAC staff alone is about three times gross receipts in the last year. Their entire budget for 2009 was roughly 12 times our gross receipts. 50 counties use our system, so much of the court information in the State is in fact centrally available.
Here are several pieces of information that may have been unclear from the article you saw: 1) The Odyssey system doesn't include document imaging, so despite the $89 Million (per the LSA) spent by the Judicial Technology and Automation Committee so far, you still can't obtain complete public case documents from any of the counties that use the Odyssey system without visiting the courthouse. What you can get is part of the CCS. 2) The system procured by the Kosciusko clerk *does* include document imaging and the ability to share all public court information, including document images on-line.
Five clerks using that system requested permission from the Division of State Court Administration in April 2008 to make documents available on-line, more clerks have sought permission since then, but the Division of State Court Administration has not yet acted on those requests. It is not inferior technology or the unwillingness of local clerks that has kept these records bound up in the county courthouses. It is within the State Court Administrative Division's power to grant this access, and they have simply not allowed it. This may be because the Odyssey system doesn't stack up very well in comparison to the existing systems and this will become apparent if access is allowed. The Kosciusko clerk has opted to use a system that costs less per court than Odyssey and is capable of providing more of the type of access you would like to see. Of course, a press release from the folks promoting Odyssey won't highlight that distinction. Sadly, most newspaper articles on the topic are nearly verbatim reprints of those releases.
I am willing to chat further with you about this if you are interested- I also wouldn't mind posting any of the information above as a comment on your blog, just posting a comment felt a bit like starting an argument instead of a dialogue. Since I'm in agreement with you basic premise that broader access to court information is, I thought I'd start with a personal communication to correct some of the inaccuracies in that article and invite further discussion. Best Regards, -Nick